A sick threat, a chilling reminder and a scandalous silence

The banned Sikhs For Justice leader Gurpatwant Singh Pannun, calling upon Sikhs to avoid travel by Air India on November 19 has set off alarm bells for the simple reason that there is a chilling history to it

Editorial Board

In the past week, people in India have been reasonably rattled by a video message that has surfaced on social media from the leader of the banned Sikhs For Justice, Gurpatwant Singh Pannun, calling upon Sikhs to avoid travel by Air India on November 19 and thereafter saying that there was not only going to be a “blocade” of the airline but that passengers would be risking their lives. The veracity of either the message or the messenger is yet to be verified, but alarm bells have gone off and expectedly so. 

November 19 is the birth anniversary of late Prime Minister Indira Gandhi who was brutally gunned down in October 1984; and November 19 is also when the finals of the World Cup cricket will be played in Ahmedabad. The video message refers to the finals as “World Terror Cup”.

Every terror threat has to be taken diligently and cannot be brushed off as coming from a mad person or to be added to the list of crank calls and messages law enforcement receives on a daily basis. In the present context, the organization and its leader have been designated extremist and terrorist in India; and in the context of recent Khalistani activism and violence in Canada, SFJ had even asked all Hindu-Canadians to leave the country, implicitly threatening their lives if they did not. And Air India flies several times a week from Toronto and Vancouver to New Delhi.

The video has to be taken seriously by India, Canada and others for the simple reason that there is a chilling history to it: Sikh extremists blew up Air India Flight 182 on a fateful day in June 1985 sending all 329 aboard to their watery graves off the coast of Ireland. Zillions of words have been written on the prior warnings of Indian intelligence agencies and on all the missed noises and signals from individuals identified with that horrific bringing down of Kanishka.

What is scandalous in this is the relative silence on the part of Canada and other nations of the West who would have literally gone bonkers if a video from al Qaeda, the ISIS or any other terror outfit would have surfaced speaking of commercial jets dropping like flies from the skies. Sprucing up security at the airports or adding an extra layer of process prior to boarding is a well-intentioned measure. But September 11, 2001, or 9/11, showed that in spite of the best intelligence and security systems, terrorists manage to have their ways.

The outrage that should have accompanied with even an unverified video message from Canada speaks volumes on the present state of affairs between New Delhi and Ottawa thanks to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s outburst in Parliament of India’s alleged involvement in the killing of a Canadian national.

The whole world knows that Canada is already or fast becoming a hotbed of extremism, especially of the anti-India variety. Failing to come to terms with the SFJ or its leaders in the name of free speech and expression is plain disgusting. Worse still if politicians cuddle up with these extremists for the sake of a few votes.